City Arts Festival 2011 Recap (Seattle, WA)

John Roderick of The Long Winters at City Arts Festival (10/20/11)
The Long Winters
Words and Photos: Drake Lelane

Heineken City Arts Festival 2011 (Seattle, WA)

After a fairly disorganized first year, the second annual City Arts Fest is starting to look more like an actual festival instead of a weekend of shows tied together in signage only. Many shows were located at least in the same neighborhood, so there was at least the opportunity this year to jump between some venues. Sadly, I had recently ruptured my calf (playing flag football with some of the very same folks who both played in and helped curate the festival), so I could barely make it through one venue, let alone multiples. City Arts Fest did a fine job of balancing several bigger acts (Ryan Adams, Robyn — both of which I was shut out of before even getting my photo pass) with local acts on the verge of breaking big (Allen Stone, Shabbaz Palaces, Pickwick, Campfire OK), even putting together a local artist hootenanny in the form of a Replacements tribute show. Next year, when I’ve got two functioning legs, I’ll report back on events like that.

October 20, 2011 (Night One)

Cobirds Unite
Cataldo started the night right, but I’m relaying that second hand since I sadly didn’t make it until their final chord rang out. The duo of Rusty Willoughby (Flop) and Rachel Flotard (Visqueen) is always a favorite of mine, but they seemed out of place on this bill. Going on after Cataldo floored the audience (still disappointed I missed their set) and before the shiny, happy energy of Campfire OK, Cobirds Unite had a hard time overcoming an audience trip to lullsville. They put on a great show, as always, with Rusty’s biting lyrics and Rachel’s lovely harmonies, but there was a lot of antsy pants in the crowd by halfway through their set. (What am I missing right now? Oh, right… drums!)

Campfire OK
Vying with Pickwick for this year’s version of The Head and the Heart, Campfire OK played their umteenth show for locals in the past six months. Where I got to the point going out of my way to avoid THATH, COK have enough variance in their songs that it hasn’t gotten old at all. Vocalists Mychal Cohen and Melody Knight seemed to be inhabited by boundless positive energy that is hard for even the truly jaded to resist, and the new songs (slated for their Chris Walla-recorded sophomore release in 2012) have moved from being new to sing-along staples in hardly any time at all.

The Long Winters with Seattle’s School of Rock
In a festival with tons of competing sets spread out over the city, it’s probably hubris to call one performance “the set of the festival,” but for those in attendance on this night, you’d be hard pressed to find someone not calling this set just that. John Roderick‘s The Long Winters has gone through many lineup changes over the years, but never has he had so many in one night. After starting out solo on the acoustic, Roderick brought out his first band for the night, high school students from the Seattle youth collective School of Rock. Song after song, kids would unplug and rotate with other kids waiting in the wings, with little or no break in the action. What could have been amateurish chaos turned into something close to what I saw as the heart of rock and roll. Wide-eyed kids — with equal parts enthusiasm and cuddly rock attitude — walking a tightrope of rhythm, chops and heart. And they didn’t just pass themselves off as a capable backing band, they tore the place up. Guest vocalist Sean Nelson (Harvey Danger, and a part of the first Long Winters lineup) joked halfway through the set that this might be the best set the Long Winters have put on, but by the end it was no longer a joke — this was the best they’d ever performed. Anyone lucky enough to be there on this night could only nod their head and smile. Words < Justice.

October 21, 2011 (Night 2)

Pickwick
So many of Seattle’s “next big things” played City Arts this year, and Pickwick is possibly poised for the biggest jump, given that they’ve yet to even release a full length album. Two weeks ago they finally put out an EP, Myths, but if you don’t live in Seattle (selling at just four locations), good luck finding it. They haven’t changed much in their Sam Cooke-meets-Cold War Kids sound, since adapting to it a year ago, but their crowds sure have grown. So much of Pickwick is reliant on the voice of Galen Disston, and between him and Allen Stone (another City Arts highlight) it’s apparent that the new Seattle sound can’t be typecast as bearded folk. Like Campfire OK, I’d seen Pickwick enough to only need a few songs to get my fill before limping my way down the street to get in one more performance for the night.

Sons of Warren Oates
First thought of as just an offshoot of The Maldives, Jason Dodson‘s Sons of Warren Oates have become a local phenomenon in their own right. Comprised of The Maldives’ Dodson, Kevin Barrans and Seth Warren, the acoustic-based trio can put a few tears in your beer, but have recently been wrangling up even more than just eyelid water. Whether conscious or not, the band has become a sometimes heart-wrenching outlet for Dodson’s recent breakup, and depending on the alcohol consumption before and during the set, each set has its own bit of drama. This time out, it was Dodson’s guitar who decided to let loose, with the stock shattering before the set even began. A borrowed guitar couldn’t derail a transcendent performance, though, even with Dodson repeatedly looking back in disbelief at his shattered guitar. Anger, frustration, disbelief… yet another partner breaking up with him out of the blue. And the audience reaps the benefits of his sorrow yet again.

More pictures from the 2011 Heineken City Arts Fest after the jump.

2011 Heineken City Arts Fest Night 1 by Drake Lelane

Cobirds Unite
Cobirds Unite

Cobirds Unite

Cobirds Unite

Cobirds Unite

Campfire OK
Campfire OK

Campfire OK

Campfire OK

Campfire OK

Campfire OK

Campfire OK

The Long Winters
The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

The Long Winters

2011 Heineken City Arts Fest Night 2 by Drake Lelane

Pickwick
Pickwick

Pickwick

Pickwick

Pickwick

Sons of Warren Oates
Sons of Warren Oates

Sons of Warren Oates

Sons of Warren Oates

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